Wednesday, April 27, 2016

On Mansplaining and Kale

I'm just an old fashioned girl with an old fashioned mind
Not sophisticated, I'm the sweet and simple kind.
I want an old fashioned house, with an old fashioned fence
And an old fashioned millionaire. - "Just An Old Fashioned Girl", Eartha Kitt

Three Men in the Peak District, England
Mansplaining and Kale - two things I know next to nothing about. And never want to.

They are not -  as far as I can discern new technologies or new discoveries -  so how come we didn't hear about them until recently?

I suspect that mansplaining is a bit like man-caves. They might have sort-of existed earlier, but no one thought to give  names. Like memes. Or maybe they ARE memes. Do memes even have memes?

But back to mansplaining - I think from the sound of it, that it is about how men like to talk a lot - to be the center of the conversation, to interrupt women. My gripe with it isn't that it is not real, or that it doesn't describe something that happens, but that people - especially women - like to write about it, like to analyze it. That they try to work out how men work.

I remember back in the early nineties when I was a lecturer at a university in Australia, there were classes for women lecturers on how to get along with male lecturers, especially how to be successful in "meetings". I have forgotten most of what was taught, except for one thing which I remember because I actually tried it a few times.

Three Men In NYC
The person educating us, a woman, pointed out how the men who got the most attention were the ones who, when it was their turn to speak, spend several seconds arranging the papers on the table in front of them, shifting  their posture, adjusted  their glasses. Maybe took a sip of water.

In short, they made everyone wait. The effect was that they exuded confidence;   people waited eagerly to hear them speak. Surely what they had to say was important.

Women on the other hand, when given a chance to speak at faculty meetings lurched forward in their seats, hurried to speak the second they were given their turn,  and rushed their sentences. Thereby appearing less confident, less dominant, and by speaking so fast, less eloquent.

I have watched the man-talking-at-meetings-thing ever since that women-awareness class at Victoria University,  and it is true. Whether it be academics or business men or hippies. The way to gain complete attention, to appear important,  is to make people wait.

After that  class in the early 90s  I decided to put it into practice that way of appearing important, of making people wait to hear what I had to say, and though my attempts have been unsuccessful, I have tried anew over the years. I will move in my chair, rearrange my notes, take a sip of water. And what happens?

Three Men In Edinburgh, Scotland
Some man interrupts me and I lose my chance to talk. Instead of appearing self-assured and eloquent, I end up appearing to be an uncertain human being who is probably avoiding speaking.

This just bolsters my belief that for men to change.  THEY have to want to change. Just like heavy smokers. They won't give up till they really WANT to give up. We women can talk about man-caves and mansplaining till the cows come home.

Men have to find their own enlightenment. It is not women's job. If there is anything more boring than mansplaining,  it is women talking about mansplaining. We won't get better at speaking in public by copying male tactics. This is because people - men and women - have already and unconsciously formed an opinion of us,  just because we are women.
Dummies at Bloomies

I recently started a thread on a Facebook group on the subject of women feeling that they have to understand and enlighten men. I expected to be howled down, even though the post was meant to be humorous.

" Just read yet another thing on "mansplaining". I think women do themselves a disservice analyzing men things. I think we should just let men have their own self-awareness stuff and (except for topics relatiing to verbal and physical abuse) we should let them go on their merry way and just use them for sex, or if they are good-looking, for adornment."

But the only  person who took  the bait was a woman.

Which sort of proves my point in a way -  but  I have trouble explaining how.

Of course if I were a man I could mansplain it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Irish Eyes

When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, 'tis like the morn in spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing. - Various , "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling"

Edison Lights at DTUT Second Avenue
Last week was not a good week. Unless you count Hillary beating Bernie in the New York primaries. Or Ted Cruz coming third in a two-horse race.

It had all started the week before when I'd gone to my Photo Shoot and decided to drop by my optometrist's to get some new frames. Only to be told to see an ophthalmologist.  Which I did. And found out there was a retina problem. Two retina problems actually, one for each eye.

"I have a weird disease," I texted a New York friend, and told her what it was called. "Its name sounds like a French town on the Swiss border. Or an entrée at a restaurant we wouldn't go to." "It sounds like a bureaucratic form," she texted back.

It wasn't my week.

The disease is genetic and is already affecting my sight. Heaps of specialists at Cornell kept asking me about members of my family. Had any gone blind? I was so spaced out I couldn't remember if any relatives older than me were still on this planet.

But later in the week I texted some and heard back from a cousin on my mother's side. The Irish side. Not that I even knew we had an Irish side until a few months  ago when the very same cousin had emailed me that she had found our grandfather's grave in the Catholic cemetery in Echuca.

He was from Tipperary. Yep, he'd come long way... And yes there were a few eyes problems in a few of my cousins. Nothing like mine however.

Irish? I never knew I was half Irish. I have never even gone to an Irish Day parade. And why hadn't anyone told me and my cousin where we were from? I can only conclude it was a family secret. A subject of shame no doubt.  My family on both sides are like that. Full of secrets.

My dad and two of his brothers. Cornish Eyes!
I was starting to not even LIKE Irish people, preferring my ancestors on the paternal side - the Cornish ones, who mostly lived life to he full, had sound eyes, and had died respectably from alcoholism. "My dad wiped himself out with alcohol before anything would have maniftested itself," texted a cousin on my father's side.

As I said it was not a good week. By Friday I had just about had it, and hid in my darkened apartment contemplating my possibly darkened future.

I completely forgot it was almost the start of Pesach. When I went to the compacter room to throw away my garbage I stared in wonderment at all the half-consumed packets of leavened bread - so immersed was I with my new-found visually-challenged Irish eyes.

And after going to the ground floor I still didn't twig - dozens of children all dressed to the nines and running around full of joy.  For Seder. Definitely not Irish!

I was like Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters when he gets even more depressed that his normal self.

From the Marx Brothers - "Duck Soup"
And then I remembered. The Woody character overcame his depression by wandering into a cinema and watching the hysterically funny Marx brothers in "Duck Soup".

Humor - I needed something funny to laugh at. And with the Comedy of Elections here in America there is  plenty to laugh about!

So I turned on to Bill Maher's "Real Time" and caught his Twenty Five Things You Didn't Know About Me send-up on Ted Cruz. Here are just some of them.

"I spent my entire freshman year of high school stuffed in a locker.
As a child, I used to imagine what it must be live to have an imaginary friend.
My nickname at Princeton was Fuckface.
Mirrors don't show my reflection.
My Cuban half once robbed my Canadian half at knifepoint."

And so on. At least I am not Ted Cruz.

Yes, life is good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Photo Shoot

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only - "It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)" - Dylan, 1965
42nd Street, Manhattan
"My god look at your HAIR!" he said. "That won't do at all."

I think he was doing his Larry David impersonation. But I was not amused.

He'd called the day before wanting to take photos. My dentist. He was giving a presentation. To the American Association of Dentists or some such organization. I am one of his most ambitious, challenging, and successful cases. He had taken photos of my teeth at each stage of his year long work way back in 2011.

My wonderful New York dentist. He'd saved my teeth. My life in fact. When I'd wandered into his 40th Street practice about five years ago, I had thought I was about to lose all my teeth. The casualties of 1950's socialist dentistry in Australia. Another reason NOT to vote for Bernie Sanders.

But I digress.

I remembered how dreadful my teeth had been. And how excellent his work. So when he called wanting more shots, I said of course, when do you need me? Tomorrow? Sounds good.

Tomorrow became today, and it did not start off well.

A man had died a few yards from my apartment building. He'd been stabbed a block away earlier in the morning. I saw it on the early morning news. He'd managed to crawl about half a block almost to the corner of 94th and Second. A cab picked him up. Too late.

Everyone was quiet in the lobby when I exited the elevator. No "Have a nice day" from the doorman. It just seemed wrong.

Homeless Woman, Grand Central
But half an hour later on the bus down Second Avenue on my way to work I'd forgotten about it. Such is the stuff that we humans are made of.

Several hours later I was at an optometrist. Looking forward to new glasses. A routine check-up. I was excited. I was getting a pair of Lindberg frames. But I was thinking of the man. The stabbing. My mind wandered. Left eye. Right eye. I couldn't make it to the third row of letters.

She looked about ten. Efficient. Smart. Pretty. Asian. What was she saying? Retinal scarring? What did she mean? A specialist? Cornell?

Suddenly the cost of the frames didn't matter. I paid. I smiled. I shoved it to the back of my mind. Where the bad things lurk.

Eyes left! Walk south down Madison. Eyes right. Next stop the photo shoot. Teeth time!

There'd been a slight breeze as I stumbled south down Madison. A few wisps of my pulled-back hair had escaped. But I was only thinking about my eyes.

On the way up on the elevator in the pre-war building on 40th Street,  I couldn't read the floor numbers on the display. "Is this the sixth floor?" I asked a man with a guide dog. He shrugged. I guess he didn't speak English.

Somehow I arrived at my dentist's office. That's when he said about my hair. I stood there speechless.

 "Oh it doesn't matter," he said. "It is good if you look a whole lot older; it'll make it seem that my dental work lasts even longer."

Jesus Christ I told him. A man died near my apartment building this morning and now I am going blind.

Unphased as is his way - "I can recommend you to a good retinal specialist, I'll just get his card."

I told him not to bother. He took some teeth photos. His assistant had to put medieval torture instruments in my mouth so my lips weren't in the way of his Nikon. She stuck a mirror in what space remained in my oral cavity. "No good! You BREATHED!" Was he talking to me or his assistant?  I heard her apologizing. We tried again. And again. And so it went till he got some perfect shots.

More torture - this time with the hygienist, cleaning, X-rays. And I was free to leave.

The receptionist, a lovely woman, was giving me kindly smiles. The hygienist was telling me I'd need a molar pulled. My dentist was telling her not yet Miss Juliff needs to get her eyes fixed first. It is not a good day for Miss Juliff. A man was stabbed to death near her apartment. I told her to blog it.

"Send me the link!" he called as I fumbled for my coat.

Of course he is a wonderful dentist. I even told him so. It is the only thing you've got going for you I told him. He saved my teeth five years ago.

 He's a lovely man. A real New Yorker. I'd recommend him to anyone.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Conversation with a New Yorker

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot SPOT
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Til it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot - "Big Yellow Taxi" Joni Mitchell in 1970

Bergdorf Goodman‎, Fifth Avenue
The phone rang. It was evening. My American friend was back from her trip to Florida. I sat back, and listened.

"I hate coming back from being in the country-side. I turn back into New York person. I hate what I become here. I am not a nice person in New York.

I feel like punching people in the face. Hitting them hard. I hate the way people walk in front of me. I hate how they stand in supermarket lines. I hate what they look like and how they walk. They are either too slow or too fast. I don't like how I am in New York.

I went to a little town in Florida last weekend. BORING. You have no idea.

Everyone - men and women - they all looked like Bernie Sanders. It was a place people go to die. I wish they would just die and get it over with. And the food! My god. The food. What can I tell you.

And the stuff they talk about. I had to go out to dinner with a bunch of them. Two couples. Don't ask me their names. I can't remember. I couldn't remember their names when I was sitting next to them.

It was peaceful there. But BORING. I was really relaxed. There was space.  You didn't have to rush like you do here. Well they couldn't really rush. They all have 'medical conditions'. 

Subway on the 6 Line
And big churches. Huge. All new with white marble columns. Yes I went to church. I don't go to church but that's what they do there. They go to church.

And they watch plays. Amateur plays. I went to one called "Hands on a Hard Body". And the 'body' was, can you believe it, a big red truck. And people put their hands on it and each person had say a story about a truck. Like, 'When I was a boy I really wanted a big truck.' And seeing a red truck makes me thing of running away with my yoga instructor.' I fell asleep.

Then I came back here. Christ! People everywhere. People pushing. Rude people.

Trump? Yes well ha ha. We must look like fools to the rest of the world. So embarrassing. And that idiot Ted Cruz - a nasty, nasty man., You realize he's an evangelist.

You have to understand why people follow Trump. There are poor uneducated people out there. They feel betrayed by the system. They can't get jobs. It isn't like New York out there in the rest of the country. It's depressing.
Spring in Central Park
Well yes, there are plenty of jobs in New York. We have it good. We are lucky to be here. We have everything we need. We have real restaurants and galleries. And taste. We just take it for granted.

I wouldn't live anywhere else. If you want to see what it's like in the rest of America go to Florida. The west coast that is. Miami is OK. But the west coast. My god. Did I tell you what we ate for dinner? You wouldn't believe it.

Or Denver. Have you SEEN Denver? Full of pot heads. Or Nebraska. Or West Virginia.

Yes there is only New York. But did you hear Ted Cruz talking about 'Noo York values' like it was a bad thing. What a fool. We are proud of our values. Yes we have New York values. New York - well Manhattan really.

It is the only place to live in America."